Educators and Cultural Diversity - An Aboriginal Focus

By Educators and Cultural Diversity- An aboriginal Perspective

Karen Elzinga 04/01/2018

Educators who work with diverse cultures need to have cultural sensitivity to whom they are working with, if teaching and bonding with families is to be successful. Education is all about collaboration with students, families and communities. Unfortunately even in the lucky country of Australia, we have a dark past when it comes to cultural tolerance and acceptance. In this document l take a look at Aboriginal culture and past atrocities, trauma's and intergenerational trauma  and how educators have a huge role in teaching and helping to

How has forced removal impacted on the lives of these individuals?

ELYF Practice of Cultural Competence states that educators need to research and build upon their own knowledge of cultural topics and atrocities. Topics that have burdened and changed how some cultures may view and interact with other cultures. Understanding the differences between cultures, and not just having awareness that one culture is simply different, allows educators to align their thinking and logic, of how to pass on learned knowledge to children. To be truly empathic to the plight of other cultures, educators need to become culturally competent. Educators learn by conversing with families and communities, and engaging in thoughtful and pro-active interactions with other cultures. Learning about  cultural traits, impacts of trauma, the joys and the sorrows that have built the cultures internal identity, allows beliefs and value systems such as the Aboriginals, to become emotionally and socially validated in early educational and care settings (Belonging, Being &Becoming).

Aboriginal children from the stolen generation are coming from a place of insecurity and mistrust. Physically taken from everything near and dear to them, and placed into static, unfriendly and uncaring institutional environments. Forced to change everything that made them who they were prior to arriving. Children were left emotional, disorientated and often alone. Some were told they no longer had parents, believing that their parents or other siblings were deceased. Children were lied to, some beaten and tortured, and left extremely distressed for long periods of time (Atkinson, p.p. 146-147).

Aboriginal children were punished for simply becoming emotional or asking questions about their circumstances. Children deemed disobedient for even minor infractions, were tied up and placed into boxes as punishment, for long lengths of time. Extreme racism was evident, as the white society hit back at an increase in Aboriginal presence. Some Aboriginals faced it more than others based on how "black" their skin was. Aboriginal children were segregated in restaurants and theatre's, with "half cast kids" as they were referred to, having charcoal added to their skin so they would appear darker and more Aboriginal. As children and adults Aboriginals face racial actions reporting the use of insulting name calling, and having aggressive verbal abuse hauled at them for no apparent reason (Stolen Generations Testimonies).

Aboriginal adults face terrifying nightmares from their institutionalization, from being physically, mentally/emotionally, and sexually abused by state care staff, and the broader community. Aboriginals lost their sense of self, their self concept diminished, their self esteem annihilated. Told they were on this planet to serve the white man, and many did working as station hands and domestic servants. Some had limited education placing them at severe disadvantage for prospective employment, thus leading to low socio economic status. Lack of family structure and support left them feeling alone and unwanted, leading to high suicide rates. Destitute, angry and disillusioned, a high number of Aboriginals of the stolen generation are left relying on self medication actions, such as alcohol and drugs (both prescribed and illegal) to numb painful childhood memories (Stolen Generations Testimonies).

As one testimonial quote from Barbra Kickett said "We only became citizens in 1967, we were classed as flora and fauna before that", that puts into perspective the mentality and logic of Government policy of the era. Aboriginals who were part of the stolen generation still today have strong emotional reactions when asked to describe their childhoods; it is raw pain, of often tortured memories recalling vicious beatings, and verbal assaults. Barbra Kickett stated that she never told her husband or family of her upbringing, until they were grown up, choosing to bury her childhood (Stolen Generations Testimonies).

What has been the impact on their children and grandchildren? Is there evidence of intergenerational trauma?

Intergenerational trauma has huge impacts on the children and grandchildren of indigenous people from the stolen generation. With such extreme trauma experienced as children, this translates to a plethora of emotional and social consequences. The implications of these are passed on both consciously and unconsciously to members of the next generational family unit. As the stolen generation struggled into parenthood many became re-traumatized over and over. They relived treacherous memories of being taken from loving families, living isolated from parental support and love. Victimized by physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect over many years, led to a cycle of behaviours, which in turn has devastating consequences in how the next generation and subsequent generations are raised (Atkinson, p.p. 146-147).

Low socio economical environments where children are raised on welfare leading to constructed poverty, is one such outcome from the effects of intergenerational trauma. Parents for reasons of alcohol and drug dependency, mental and behavioural issues, health reasons or simple racism, are unable to secure and sustain employment leading to intergenerational welfare recipients. Domestic violence arising from unresolved anger issues extend to spouses with children watching on, or are enacted upon children. Aggressive behaviours are learned and sometimes repeated on other people as learned behaviours. Suicide of a parent inflicts feelings of resentment, guilt, and feelings of unworthiness by the children as they measure that if my parent loved me they wouldn't have left me. Incarceration of a parent causes low self esteem and other school children inflict bullying, leading to decreased self concept, anger, and resentment issues (Atkinson, p.p. 146-147).

Just imagine re-counting every time your child has a birthday that they were the product of a sexual and torturous act, now imagine being that child and knowing what your father was, and that you were conceived not by a loving act, but by a despised act. What does that do for your self image? How a mother treats the sensitivity of that topical issue depends on how she is able to cope herself with it. Her emotions may extend to resenting the child for where she came from, and the act that she had to endure at the hands of a monster, in order to conceive the child. This may well play out in how the parent raises the child. Likewise fathers, who drink excessively in anger, take their pain out aggressively and emotionally on children, especially male sons, as sons challenge and react to their behaviour (Atkinson, p.p. 146-147).

Educators can help intergenerational trauma victims by enacting the ELYF- Practice- Cultural Competence. Self education by teachers of the contributing factors related to trans-generational trauma, can aid children and families to cope in hard times. Educators can help by being aware that parents maybe fearful of teachers, and the education and care setting. Educators need to strive for greater understanding of issues, and be proactive in forming collaborative partnerships. Educators need to relay openly to families, that cultural traditions, values and beliefs are important, and will be provided for within the educational and care setting. Cultural Competence means that teachers are "aware", and are able to meet the success of short term and long term learning out comes. When a child's sense of belonging, being and becoming is centred to incorporate their cultural beliefs, values, practices and language, then children are set up to achieve greatness (Belong, being and becoming).

Educators can create change, they just have to be educated themselves into the sensitivities surrounding the culture they are teaching in order to centralise teaching practices, and pedagogy strategies, in line with curriculum but also taking in individual learning.

Hope this short topic was helpful to your teaching.


Australian's Together. Home List of stories 'Just Get over It’ - Understanding Intergenerational Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.australianstogether...

Belong, being and becoming. (2009). Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/...

Atkinson, J. Trauma trails recreating song lines: The trans-generational effects of trauma in Indigenous Australia. (2002).Spinifex press Pty Ltd. p.p. 146-147.

Stolen Generations Testimonies. (2009). retrieved from http://stolengenerationstestim...


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